Gary Nelson talks about 18 million dollars' worth of headaches and triumphs in the production of Disney Studio's costliest film ever.
You might say that it was only a matter of time before Walt Disney Studios produced a multi-million dollar science fiction film, but The Black Hole is in many ways more than that. It represents a new attitude at the studio: to produce films for a more adult marketplace. And there is much about this film that is precedent-setting. Produced at a cost of $17 1/2 million, it is the studio's most costly production to date. It is their first film to be rated PG and it does not carry the Disney name above the title. All of this is evidence that Disney is willing to change with the times. As far as the plot goes, Disney is not talking, but they are quick to emphasize that The Black Hole will be loaded with eyepopping special effects which include miniatures, cel animation, travelling mattes, and over 150 matte paintings. In terms of creating state of the art technology, Disney technicians rarely take a back seat to anyone. For The Black Hole they created the ACES (Automated Camera Effects System) camera which is a computer operated, repeatable movie camera system for photographing the miniatures. It has a new lens and allows for greater depth of field. They have also developed the Matte Scan camera which allows for movement of the camera while photo graphing mattes.
To utilize this new equipment, the studio assembled a crack team of Oscar-winning effects experts. Production designer Peter Ellenshaw came out of retirement to create the visual concepts, and supervise the special effects. Veterans Art Cruickshank and Eustace Lycett supervised the special photographic effects and Danny Lee supervised the mechanical effects. Supervising and contributing to the matte work was Peter's son, Harrison Ellenshaw.
In the final analysis the man responsible for making it all work dramatically, as well as visually, is the director, Gary Nelson. When The Black Hole is released in late December it will represent over two years work for Nelson. It has been the longest assignment of his career. Prior to The Black Hole, he directed the fourhour TV movie To Kill A Cop which was the basis for this season's Eischied series. He also directed Washington: Behind Closed Doors for which he was nominated for an Emmy. Some of the episodic television he has directed includes: Kojak, Police Story, Get Smart, and Have Gun, Will Travel.